Friday, July 13, 2007

Despite flaws, Mary Higgins Clark still pens a pageturner

I stayed up until 1 this morning finishing Mary Higgins Clark's newest mystery, I Heard That Song Before. I've been reading Clark since junior high, and consider her one of my favorite authors. I know she's not the greatest writer, but she manages to pen pageturners that are exciting, while maintaining a definite PG rating. Still, I have been somewhat disappointed in her last few books, and this one was no exception.

The story focuses on Kay Lansing, a librarian working in Englewood, New Jersey, who finds herself taking a step into her past when she enters the Carrington Family's sprawling estate to ask a favor of its owner, Peter. It's the same mansion where her deceased father once worked as a landscaper. When Peter agrees to work with Kay on a literary fundraiser, the two fall in love and are married after a whirlwind courtship. Kay is happy with the union, but her family and friends are uneasy about her new husband. Twenty-two years ago, Peter was dating Susan Althorp, who was murdered after he supposedly dropped her off at her home. No proof could connect Peter to the crime, but he had still been presumed guilty by the general public. Later, when his wife mysteriously drowned, he again became a "person of interest" in a homicide. Kay believes in Peter, but finds herself in the minority when Susan's body is discovered on the Carrington's property. Once again, Peter is at the center of a murder investigation. As the evidence piles up against him, Kay determines to find the real killer. There's no shortage of suspects: Susan's father was angry with her the night she died; could he have harmed his own daughter? Or was it Gary Barr, the temperamental servant, who gets jumpy every time he's interviewed? For Kay, the answer hinges on an argument she overheard in the mansion's deserted chapel when she was six. As Kay tries desperately to make the connection, she finds herself in a race against time to save her husband and herself.

Like I said, Mary Higgins Clark knows how to keep a reader turning pages by focusing almost solely on plot. Her characters are all flat as pancakes, her writing is lifeless (she's the queen of telling, not showing), and her dialogue is stilted and unnatural. Usually, I can overlook these things for a compelling plot, but I Heard That Song Before's storyline is so full of holes it's hard to concentrate on anything else. It starts with Kay's marriage to Peter, which happens so quickly the reader never has a chance to see a relationship develop. Yet, somehow, they are hopelessly in love. It goes on from there, with plot twists that come out of nowhere and myriad loose ends that are never tied up. All this made for a dissatisfying read.

Make no mistake, I still love Clark and will probably read every book she writes until the day she dies. I'm that loyal. However, her last few books have not been up to par on many levels, although somehow they still manage to pull me in and keep me reading way past bedtime.

4 comments:

  1. Great review. I use to faithfully read Mary Higgins Clark too as a teen! I don't know why I stopped. Maybe college.

    Thanks for writing I have a fun blog. So do you. I will be visiting often as you read the books I wish I had time for!

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  2. Only cute babies can get away with picking their noses. Awww.

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  3. LOL on the nose picking. He is a cute baby!

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  4. I grew up reading MHC. I haven't read her latest though, I need to catch up :)

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